21.Moose Jaw Warriors- I could spend the entire preview scathing the direction of the Moose Jaw Warriors but I will do my best to proceed with an more optimistic view and develop theories that could lead to a better future in the Jaw. The incoming players don't nearly outweigh the core players they are losing but on the same token like the old adage goes, "for every loss breeds new opportunity", and this is a quote that might be bulletin board material for this young group in 2015-2016 as the younger players will have to make leaps and bounds improvements to field a quasi-competitive team.
Anytime you lose players such as Tanner Eberle and Jack Rodewald you'll be in for growing pains, but the losses may not end there. Brayden Point will return to the Warriors in 2015-2016 with the goals to be a top ten scorer and be a much larger contributor for Team Canada at the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championship in Finland, much greater then the alternate forward he fell accustomed to in the 2015 championships. The question now though is does General Manager Alan Millar sooth his cuts and decide to trade Point to a contender? Smart answer would be a resounding yes, as from a pure managerial perspective he would return a brick load, but ethics and loyalty also enter into the equation when making a franchise altering decision. The fact is, like just mentioned trading Brayden is a logical look towards the future but the opposite angle is how will the fans of Moose Jaw react, full well knowing it'll be a trying year regardless with our without this Calgary cannon and at the same time the most loyal supporter has already been through hell and back since the masterful 2011-2012 season. Is the justification there for such a move, I certainly think so but not when including the human element. So what kind of player is Point exactly? For starters, he's a team leader being appointed captain at the tender age of eighteen and that leadership does not come without high octane skill. Coming in at 5'10, you would surmise that a player of that stature wouldn't have the grasp of a world class shot but that's exactly what he has. A player like Point who can already beat you off the rush but when you throw in the combination of that shot, it forces defenders to get all up in his business, freeing up lanes for his line mates. Judging the Warriors outlook, I have a tough time penciling two players that could compliment the sultry skill of #19, but two players who will probably get a long look will be Brett Howden, although balancing it out and employing him as the second line center is a wiser strategical endeavor, and veteran Torrin White. Both Howden and White bring substantially different positive attributes to the table with the only real similar comparison is their outstanding work ethic. Howden, just like his brother, former Warrior great Quenton is a north-south runner who won't fool you for a puck wizard but his ability to pick the pocket of defenders is uncanny, and I have a tough time recollecting a player in the dub who does a better job at that. Then you have White, whom quite honestly has never really met the Warriors expectations being how he was the twenty first overall selection of the 2010 WHL Bantam draft. That draft was memorable for the wrong reasons as having two picks in the first round saw them land White and a defenceman better suited for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in Carter Hansen. It's imperative that White exceeds his 2014-2015 point totals which saw him amass thirty eight points.
Paging Lane Manson, Lane Manson, please report to aisle 5!. I am an individual from Regina that is trained from an early age to hate the Warriors, but during the years of Manson it was impossible to because he undeniably was one of my favourite players from the league ever. Is there a Lane Manson in this group, well if there is it all, which I highly doubt, Taylor Green may give it the best shot simply due to his height of 6'7. Unfortunately for Warrior fans, he doesn't have the game even suited to be a third pairing stalwart, so when coming to the realization that he a twenty year old on a team not expected to be playoff bound, I give myself a better chance of winning tomorrow's lotto max then Green sticking around, Dustin Perillat got a lot love due to his efforts last year but in my opinion I need to see more, especially considering he is slated to be their number one defenceman. An offensive dynamo in junior circles but makes Luke Schenn look like an all-star when analyzing the defensive part of the game, which being a defenceman I would say is pretty important! I'm hoping that he'll spend this summer beefing up because physicality or a lack there of obstructed his chances to a be a professional prospect in my eyes. It's no secret if you read a few of my earlier previews on teams from the Western Hockey League, that I haven't exactly been enamored with this managerial group and how Millar has constructed this team but I will give credit where credit is due, and the acquisition of Spenser Jensen is a tremendous one. I think the decision makers in Medicine Hat couldn't differentiate potential level to how much playing time he was getting so he was viewed as expendable but Moose Jaw will reap the benefits this year. He'll be a leader on the defence, and Spenser provides a great level of reliability on the back end and I plead with the City of Moose Jaw to please understand what he actually is, he's not there to be the offensive catalyst on defence, people like Perillat will handle those responsibilities, he's a defensive defenceman and I hope the fans will see this and not rile on him for not producing.
If I'm coming across a little harsh on some of these team previews, I apologize but I will not apologize for what I'm about to proclaim and that is my opinion, goaltender Zach Sawchenko enters a category with Joe Hicketts and Haydn Fleury as the three most overrated players in the dub. Not exactly an affiliation a player should be proud of, I understand but I'll explain it how I see it. Sawchenko came to Moose Jaw drawing comparisons to Carey Price but now entering his third full season is drawing comparisons to a goaltender only dedicated Moose Jaw fans would remember, Scott Ironside. I made a statement in an earlier blog post that never should a goaltender be taken in the first round of the NHL draft, and maybe I have to start applying this rule to the bantam draft. Does he have potential? I'm sure he does but I'm not exactly sure what's holding him back, but is .896 save percentage from a year ago is deplorable. I hate to prognosticate trades pertaining to juniors, but maybe movement of Sawchenko would be best for player and organization especially when you have a tender like Brody Willms waiting in the wings. Out of the twenty two projected starting goaltenders clubs league, cue the boldness, Sawchenko is in the bottom five.
22.Kootenay Ice- The Winnipeg Ice, oh wait that's 2016-2017, getting a little ahead of myself, the KOOTENAY ICE are in for a very difficult job having lost a multitude of premier talent which led to the resignation of coach Ryan McGill. Sadly, there aren't a lot of nice things I can say about the Ice other then to say they have one of the better uniforms in the league, not quite Seattle Thunderbird nice, but quality. To get pointed for a second, this has the making of a disastrous season in Cranbrook with reaching the ten win mark perhaps being too lofty of a goal.
They've lost team captain Sam Reinhart, they've lost the courageous Tim Bozon, they've lost the versatlile Levi Cable who put up a commendable fifty one points, likely to lose Jaedon Descheneau who unless unforeseen circumstances arise will be spending the year with the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves. This funeral of Ice is complete, it's now time to assess who the building blocks will be for a full-on re structuring for this organization. It's hard to fathom what newly acquired European Roman Dymacek must be feeling. On one hand, you would imagine that he'll get the opportunity to see time on the first line, a luxury he may not have had with an upper echelon team which could boost his draft prospects but conversely by playing on the this melting Ice squad, and leading to boot, he'll get in over his head and be a chicken with his head cut off. Credit to president and General Manager Jeff Chynoweth for landing Dymacek as being able to tally thirty one points in the Czech Junior League is something to write home about because the Czech Republic junior league has the notorious reputation of being difficult to score. Matt Alfaro excelled under the tutelage of Ryan McGill, and will be expected to be a strong asset for new coach Luke Pierce. Luke Pierce, who will be the youngest head coach in the Western Hockey League at 31 bring with him a plethora of junior A experience and it will be up to guys like the Calgarian Alfaro to show him the ropes and be a positive presence both on and off the ice. Just throwing it out there, but my captaincy pick for this season will be Alfaro. It's hard for me to consider somebody who amounted a measly one point last year as someone to watch out for, but I'm doing it anyways with Jared Legien. Legien lacks confidence because the superior skill is evident. He might as well be given an increased role because the Ice may be in danger of rivalling the 1995-1996 London Knights so giving meaningful minutes to Legien and other sixteen/seventeen will....as we say in the business no harm, no foul. The last point I'll make about the forward is I'm very interested in what a gentleman like Zak Zborosky can accomplish without playing alongside Descheneau. The question that will get vindication because if Zborosky slides, we know that he was getting pulled around in the back while Jaedon rode shot gun.
Two Saskatchewan products will lead the back-end charge for Kootenay. Troy Murray from White City and Tanner Faith from Wilcox will be Pierce's backbone when faced with the herculean task of shutting down the best forwards from the, aside from the Ice, very strong central division. I made reference to the fact that I felt that due to the last name of some players is the reason certain comrades get preferential treatment, such as Troy Murray. I don't know what's more disgraceful between Troy Murray having a guaranteed path to the league because he's Ryan's brother or that he'll be asked to anchor a first line in the Western Hockey League on average talent at best. I take back my opening remark when I said the Ice may be in tough to win ten, let's try five on for size. Faith, different from Murray is a player I'm high on. Decent size which is always a redeemable quality when scouting defenceman is working in Faith's favor but he needs refinement in his offensive game because you know for a fact he will get power play time, and lot's of it. When watching Faith, sometimes I got the impression that he would always resort to the super-safe play which on it's surface is not wrong but it's off putting when opts for this and ignores the higher reward play at all costs. An instance strikes out when in a game vs Prince Albert, Sam Reinhart had a clear lane between the two defenders and by firing a pass up would've done no harm for the Ice but chose to regroup and circle back the puck. More aggressiveness in his game would be much appreciated. No other player will benefit more from this perceived Ice youth movement then incoming seventeen year old Mark O'Shaugnessy. An undrafted list player which I could only predict was due to original commitment issues is an absolute stud and a player that because of a role he's expected to tackle could be in line for the Western Conference's rookie of the year. He might come, will come in to the league next year and the takeaway after he visits each barn will be his unprecedented skating ability.
The twenty year old dilemma is a complicated scenario for the Ice because like most teams, there are lots of moving parts. Does Descheneau get returned, unlikely in my books but if he does, he's a lock but then again probably an enticing trade chip. Secondarily to that, what do you do with the General Manager's son Ryan Chynoweth, who not many would argue is not WHL caliber but understandable nepotism may encroach. I view Luke Philp and Tanner Faith both locks to return, so the uneviable position the Ice will be left in is what you do with Wyatt Hoffin, Absolutely worthy of playing in this league, but I just don't see a spot available. If he's trades, or shockingly re-assigned to Junior A, next in line Keelan Williams. In order for Williams to survive the season, he will have to pull out a Julie "The Cat" Gaffney performances to work his way out of this season in one piece. If Williams doesn't show the propensity to be the every day goalie, then Connor Hobbs younger brother Declan will see the crease more then not. Pertaining to this blog, I can be ruthless at times but genuinely feel bad about the prospects of this team and feel particularly bad for whichever goaltender gets the nod.
So there you have it folks, my Western Hockey League pre-season preview is complete. I thoroughly hope you enjoyed as I had a blast putting this together. I will certainly provide more content to the Western Hockey League and other sports throughout the summer, but I plead that you please spread the word about this blog and please follow me at twitter @bretzky26.
Thanks so much!!! Until next time, take care.